Building Greener Appliances

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Tuohy
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We’ve come a long way from cleaning our clothes with washboards and doing the dishes in wooden buckets. Innovations in home appliances have helped us gain a precious resource: time. Today’s appliances also help us lead greener, more eco-friendly lifestyles.

From washing machines that waste less water to fridges that use half the energy of older models, appliance makers are innovating to save consumers’ money and the planet’s resources. Here we’ll look at some of the newest features of home appliances that help you lead a more environmentally conscious life.

Look for Energy Star and WaterSense Appliances

Start by looking for Energy Star- and WaterSense-rated products. Our household’s appliances account for 20 to 30 percent of our energy use and 25 percent of our indoor water consumption, according to the Green Building Council. We can quickly cut 10 to 50 percent of that energy use by opting for Energy Star models and conserve 20 percent more water with WaterSense products (more than 30 percent if you install low-flow faucets).

Upgrade Your Washing Machine

These updated models focus on cutting down resources to make your laundry routine more sustainable.

Go small: The average household does five loads of laundry a week, and while we all want to be greener, sometimes you just have to throw in that filthy soccer uniform for a quick wash all by itself. Be guilt-free with a washing machine featuring a secondary small washer. New models from LG and Samsung offer small-capacity machines that fit in a pedestal or extra drawer in your machine so that you can run a small load without wasting excess water.

Try a front loader: While top-loading washers have also made great advances in water consumption, front-load washers featuring high-efficiency technology wash your clothes with a lot less water. They use the friction of the machine’s drum to tumble-clean your clothes, using an average of just 8.78 gallons of water per load, compared to an average of 16.15 gallons of water with top loaders (source).

Get connected: Smartphone apps let you start, pause, and run your washing machine and dryer remotely. More important, they allow you to monitor your energy usage. Plus, they can schedule the laundry to run when energy is in lower demand, which puts less strain on the grid and more money in your pocket.

Make Your Fridge Eco-Friendly

Cut down your food waste and your energy usage with these refrigerator features.

Get a window: Just opening the refrigerator door makes up about 7 percent of our refrigerators’ overall energy usage. New models from manufacturers like LG and Samsung offer door-in-door features so that you can put drinks and snacks in a spot that’s easy to reach — without having to open the whole fridge. Another innovation in this space is a tap-to-wake window, where you can knock on the fridge door and a light turns on so that you can see inside the fridge from outside, without opening the door. This takes fridge-grazing to a whole new level!

Go smart: While some smart fridge features can feel a bit gimmicky, one real benefit of connecting your fridge to the internet of things is energy savings. Some smart fridges are capable of syncing with electricity grids to make the most out of their energy use. They run energy-intensive defrost cycles when energy rates are low, alert you to power outages, and let you keep an eye on how much energy you are using so that you can learn and adapt.

Reduce Your Dishwasher’s Water Usage

Traditional rinse cycles can waste a lot of water, but these features clean your dishes with much less.

Use your senses: Newer dishwashers feature sensors that can detect how soiled your dishes are and adapt the cycle time accordingly. This helps cut down on wasted water if you’re good at scraping your plates.

Pick your cycle: Like washing machines, dishwashers have an array of cycles to choose from. When you can, opt for the “efficient” cycles, which use less water and energy but take a little longer to complete.

Manufacturers are always coming up with new ideas as they strive toward building greener appliances for us and our planet. The next time you’re shopping for a new household appliance, prioritize features that conserve energy.

With more than 15 years’ experience writing for newspapers, magazines, and marketing and online content,Jennifer Touhy is an award-winning freelance journalist located in Charleston, South Carolina. She covers a variety of topics, but her passions lie in green living and technology, and the intersection of the two. If you’re considering improving your appliances for efficiency, check out TheHome Depot’s websitefor a wide selection of refrigerator, dishwasher, and washing machine options.

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